What Job Learned by Suffering

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What Job Learned by Suffering

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The name Job means “persecuted” or “object of scorn.” Job’s story begins with a challenge to Satan’s argument that no one will obey God unless his selfish motives are being satisfied. So “the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’” (Job 1:8 Job 1:8And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?
American King James Version×
).

Job was the ideal person for God to use to disprove Satan’s assertion that human beings can be motivated only by satisfying their selfish, greedy desires.

“So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a [protective] hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’” (verses 9-11).

Intending among other purposes to disprove that contention, “the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (verse 12).

By permitting Job to suffer unjustly, God was allowing him to learn one of the most important lessons that anyone could ever learn! But we also see that God routinely allows righteous people to be tested.

“The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous” (Psalms 11:4-5 Psalms 11:4-5 [4] The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. [5] The LORD tries the righteous: but the wicked and him that loves violence his soul hates.
American King James Version×
). Also, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10 Jeremiah 17:10I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
American King James Version×
). Job was no exception.

Now let’s consider some of the highlights of Job’s ordeal.

Job had “seven sons and three daughters” and “his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East” (verses 1-2).

Satan’s attack on Job led to the death of his 10 children and the destruction of all of his property and wealth. “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (verse 22).

Next Satan “struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7 Job 2:7So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown.
American King James Version×
). Job became filled with self-pity: “Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11 Job 3:11Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
American King James Version×
). Still he refused to sin or blame God.

Job’s three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar—came to “mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11 Job 2:11Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come on him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
American King James Version×
). But little comfort were they! Eliphaz reasoned: “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” (Job 4:7 Job 4:7Remember, I pray you, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
American King James Version×
). Zophar chided: “Do you not know this of old, since man was placed on earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment?” (Job 20:4 Job 20:4Know you not this of old, since man was placed on earth,
American King James Version×
). Similar arguments fill most of the book of Job. But those arguments are rejected not only by Job but also by God at the book’s conclusion.

Throughout his ordeal Job’s attitude was, “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live” (Job 27:6 Job 27:6My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
American King James Version×
, NIV). His confidence in his own judgment seemed solid.

But just because Job was innocent of sin did not mean that his relationship with God was perfect or that His ongoing faithfulness was certain if life went on as usual. He still had some things to learn. He lost sight of the purpose of life and failed to see that God could have a legitimate reason for allowing his suffering.

While Job refused to take his own life, he pleaded with God to simply let him perish—an attitude of hopelessness. God responded, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then [let’s see you] adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (Job 40:8-14 Job 40:8-14 [8] Will you also cancel my judgment? will you condemn me, that you may be righteous? [9] Have you an arm like God? or can you thunder with a voice like him? [10] Deck yourself now with majesty and excellency; and array yourself with glory and beauty. [11] Cast abroad the rage of your wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. [12] Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. [13] Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. [14] Then will I also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Job had complained that he could see no reason for God to allow a righteous person to be afflicted by evil people. So God challenged Job to offer his solutions. Job had none! In that regard he was no different from the millions of people today who complain that God is not fair but have no workable alternatives to offer.

Finally Job’s discussions led him to see that God knows what He is doing and is able to finish what He has started! He responds to God: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6 Job 42:2-6 [2] I know that you can do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from you. [3] Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. [4] Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak: I will demand of you, and declare you to me. [5] I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. [6] Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

God has revealed only a basic outline of how He plans to eliminate the problem of evil and all the suffering it causes. He has not yet explained all of the details. We do not always know why God allows certain things and prevents other things, as His thoughts and ways are higher than ours as heaven is above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
American King James Version×
).

Job had to learn to trust God even in difficult times. God expects us to reach that same conclusion! GN

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